On August 22, Russian authorities arrested Kirill Serebrennikov, a distinguished theater director and head of the Gogol Center in Moscow, Russia's leading avant-garde theater. He was charged with embezzling government funds. Meduza, an English-language news website covering Russian politics and culture, casts doubt on these questionable charges in an impassioned call for Serebrennikov's release. Meduza exposes the flimsiness of the embezzlement claim and details the long and ugly history of the Russian government targeting theater directors. Here's an excerpt:
We know from the real way Russia’s laws are enforced that today’s criminalization of fraud isn’t any better than the USSR’s ban on counterrevolutionary activities. It’s the same effective and universal instrument for punishing anyone. The only difference is that nobody is shot. Olga Romanova, the head of the “Jailed Russia” group, has considerable experience with Russian criminal cases against entrepreneurs, and she says plainly that Russian law enforcement’s use of embezzlement charges is “one of the country’s biggest problems,” arguing that Russia’s existing laws against fraud ought to be excised from the Criminal Code “with a pair of scissors.”
We shouldn’t have to wait 15 years to rehabilitate the defendants in the “Seventh Studio” case. We believe the case against Serebrennikov and his colleagues strongly appears to be fabricated, making it just one of thousands of similar fabricated cases against others in Russia convicted of fraud. We believe this treatment of Kirill Serebrennikov is unacceptable, and consider it totally unfounded to assume that the creators of “Seventh Studio” were motivated by a desire to steal from the government. We do not know who exactly decided to launch this attack on Serebrennikov, but we will do what we can to find out.
Image of Kirill Serebrennikov via BBC.